Richard III’s Character in the Play and History Essay
Richard III’s Character in the Play and History
Using Act 1 Scene 2 as a Starting Point, Discuss The Character of Richard III as Shakespeare Presents Him, and How the Play May Reflect a Tudor View of History. In Shakespeare’s ‘King Richard III,’ Richard is portrayed as an evil and manipulative man. This however may not have been his true self as the incidents were written around one hundred and ten years later. In this essay I shall be analysing Richard’s character and how that may differ from how he was in real life.
In Act 1 Scene 2 the corpse of Henry VI, having been defeated at the battle of Tewkesbury, is being carried in the funeral procession and Anne, his daughter in-law, is mourning his death. Richard enters and we immediately get an impression of him. He orders the procession to be stopped in line 33, ‘Stay, you that bear the corpse, and set it down.’ It is unorthodox to stop a funeral and he also is very disrespectful and he shows how ill mannered and rude he can be. Anne then reflects a similar opinion as she tells the audience her impression of Richard, “What black magician conjures up this fiend.” She describes him as though he is evil, this links to the end of the play in which Richard represents evil, as opposed to Richmond representing good, in the final battle at Bosworth.
Richard then continues his trail of insolence by ignoring Anne’s comment and threatening the coffin bearers with death if they defy him, “I’ll make a corpse of him that disobeys.” This once again shows his impatience and severity. It also gives the audience reason to believe that he was the cause of the monarch’s death. As a man approaches Richard and asks politely if he could stand aside, Richard immediately returns with a barrage of insults, “Villains…unmannered dog…beggar.” Although Shakespeare presents Richard as an intelligent man throughout the play, Richard uses insults to make him feel superior; he uses this technique again at the final part of the play. During his speech to his soldiers rather than announcing to them positives he can only speak negatively about his opposition, “A sort of vagabonds, rascals and runaways,” This shows some desperation.
Anne then calls Richard ‘the devil’ and says, “Avaunt,” to him as though she were banishing him and he were a supernatural being. This shows how evil she believes Richard to be. In line 49 Richard begins acting in order to woo Anne. By doing this he would have much more authority because Anne herself was of high importance; she was married to the prince. Richard, instead of insulting Anne as one would expect, he replies “Sweet saint, for charity, be not so curst.” Anne is not fooled by Richard’s acting straight away and so she behaves in a similar way to Richard’s mother in Act four Scene four. She proves that she has not been fooled by Richard in the way she contradicts his first two words with hers, “Sweet saint…Foul devil”
Anne then shows Richard the body of Henry and the wounds are bleeding, this was seen as a sign that the killer was near; by doing this she eradicates any belief of the audience that Richard is innocent, although this would be unlikely due to Richard’s speech in the previous scene. Richard uses his acting skills to manipulate Anne and his determination is shown as he doesn’t give up when Anne continues to insult him, “Vouchsafe, divine perfection of a woman…Fairer than tongue can name thee,” He flatters Anne to get what he wants.
Richard shifts the responsibility of the murder, “I did not kill your husband…he is dead, and slain by Edward’s hands. He blames Edward for the imprisonment and death of Clarence in a similar way. Richard then says that he has done a favour to her husband by killing him because heaven is a place better than earth. “Let him than me, that holp to send him thither,” he also says this regarding his brother Clarence whom he ordered to be killed in the tower of London.
While Anne discredits him by saying, “And thou unfit for any place but hell.” Richard is outrageous and explains that he is good enough for one other place, “Your bedchamber.” Richard then uses his ‘love’ to blame Anne herself for the deaths of her husband and Henry VI “Your beauty was the cause of that effect.” Here he is using his acting skills and persuasiveness to get what he wants; Richard does this throughout the play. As Anne keeps on resisting, Richard makes a bold move and shows how he is a risk taker by offering the chance to kill him “here I lend this sharp-pointed sword…and humbly beg death.”
His success makes him bolder “Then bid me kill myself and I will do it.” He has already succeeded but he wants to find out what he can get away with. He could die yet he continues. Richard is emotionally manipulative “look how my ring encompasseth thy finger…even so thy breast encloseth my heart.” He mocks Anne for her weakness during his soliloquy “Was ever woman in this humour wooed?” Richard’s true feelings are revealed in a similar way to when Clarence is taken to the Tower of London in the first scene. His motives are cynical “I’ll have her but I will not keep her for long'” Richard only cares about himself and power. Throughout the play, Shakespeare presents Richard as an evil man but there are more ‘layers’ to Richard he uses his skills and characteristics to do what he pleases.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 15 November 2017
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